The Push is on for Biopesticides
Nasturtium, spider flowers, bigleaf lupins, and sorghum-sudangrass are under the microscope in a new biopesticide project led by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) Dr. Chris Kirby. His team of five AAFC scientists in Prince Edward Island, Saskatoon, and Guelph works in close collaboration with the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI).
"These plants naturally produce chemicals to protect themselves from fungi, bacteria, and pests that live in the soil and above ground," said Dr. Kirby.
The goal is to identify the natural defences of these plants, extract the active chemicals, and use them as biopesticides to protect potato and/or canola crops from fungal diseases.
"Ultimately the successful plants could be put into a crop rotation or be harvested to extract the key bio- active chemicals."
"In the soil, microbes fight other microbes better than anything we can produce chemically because they have had millions of years to evolve very effective chemical defences in order to compete with each other," said Kirby.
The project will include plants, naturally occurring soil microbes, as well as some microbes used in the food industry (for example to make cheese and yogurt), to see if they can be effective in reducing fungal diseases.
The three year exploratory research project involves using natural products chemistry techniques (for example, assay guided fraction, Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography (UPLC)/ Mass Spectrometry (MS) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to discover compounds that can combat troublesome fungal diseases. The list of targeted pathogens includes Fusarium sambucinum, Fusarium coeruleum, Helminthosporium solani, Phytophthora erythroseptic, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, Rhizoctonia solani, Alternaria alternate, and Phoma lingam.
Kirby is hoping to find a handful of potential biopesticide candidates that could be turned into commercial bio-control products.
"By year three we hope to be doing greenhouse trials to test the effectiveness of the biopesticide candidates we discover," he said.
"We hope to identify natural products, test their efficacy, and transfer the information to the industry to develop into commercial products that can be used by farmers."
Kirby sees a big upside for biopesticides as they could possibly increase sustainability of agriculture, both economically and environmentally.
For more information:
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
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